It is a tried and true plot of old western movies that still plays well today. Some rich outsider shows up in a dusty frontier town and wants to buy up the countryside.
He wants to dam up the valley and steal the water. He wants to cut all the timber, fence off all the good grazing, and build a railroad through the ranches. And he uses money to get what he wants.
The genteel townsfolk fret and fuss but don’t do anything to resist the rich interloper, because they’re too afraid of what all that money can do to ‘em. They’ve all read the stories in the frontier newspapers about what this moneyed Simon LeGree villain has done to other quiet little towns in the territory.
He’s bought off the politicians, the judges and the sheriffs. His high-dollar Philadelphia lawyers tie the courts into fancy knots to pave the way for their client’s money to go to work. All that filthy lucre seems to be an irresistible force plowing through the pristine beauty of the American West.
Nervous citizens have convinced themselves that resistance is futile, and they’re pretty much resolved that nothing can be done to prevent all that money from changing their bucolic lives.
And then a lone cowboy with a lantern jaw and cold-chisel eyes steps into the dusty street, plants his boots firmly and says, “Hold it right there.”
Flash forward to nowadays. The place is Sublette County. The rich bastid trying to throw his weight around with money is Joe Ricketts who wants to build a Jackson-esque playground for the uber-rich along the Upper Hoback River near Bondurant.
The cowboy is Doug Vickrey, a Sublette County commissioner who has had a bellyful of billionaire big talk and bullshit. Vickrey says, and I quote, “I would like Mr. Ricketts to know that with all his wealth there are some things in this world money cannot buy, and by God I’m one of them.”
I’ve never met Doug Vickrey. I don’t know how he sits a horse, if he has cow savvy or anything about his roping skills. But, by his words and, more importantly, his actions, I can only conclude that Doug Vickrey is Cowboy as hell.
We see plenty of public servants and politicians that mouth the words of Wyoming’s Official Code of Ethics (or the Code of the West, whatever you want to call it), but precious few that act on those words. Vickrey is not one of those drugstore cowboys.
Doug Vickrey, as an elected official, has very obviously taken to heart this code and, in particular, Articles 9 and 10 which read:
9. Remember that some things are not for sale, and
10. Know where to draw the line.
If Doug Vickrey likes beer, I want to buy one for him sometime. My heart is gladdened and my love for Wyoming is justified when I see my neighbors digging their heels in for things we all say that we believe.
It doesn’t surprise me a bit to see this brand of cowboy courage come out of Sublette County. Back in the day, a bunch of crusty Sublette County cowboys and cowgirls (and one lyricist for the Grateful Dead) banded together to put a screeching halt to Project Wagonwheel, a proposal to frack the ground around Pinedale using tactical nukes.
So Mr. Vickrey, my compliments sir. And my gratitude for your stand. What’s more, I’ll bet a good ropin’ horse that I don’t speak alone.